The cosy atmosphere of two gastropubs in Leamington and Warwick was swapped for the sweltering heats of the Maasai Mara in Kenya by pub staff on a charity expedition.
Suzie Ayling, manager of the Rose and Crown in Warwick, and James Neal, junior sous chef from the Star and Garter in Leamington, were joined by Lillington man Lee Cash, who co-founded the Peach Pub company, which owns both pubs, on a week-long conservation trip to work on the Enonkishu Conservancy on the northern boundary of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem.
Along with seven other members of staff from Peach Pub pubs in Oxfordshire and Bedfordshire, Suzie, James and Lee planted 20,000 two-inch trees and built a fence around the conservancy, helping to protect an area of land under growing threat.
The team also presented a cheque for a million Kenyan shillings (£10,000) - collected from donations made by customers at Peach’s 16 pubs in the UK - to the conservancy to go towards African wildlife and conservation projects.
And they also took out time to take part in activities with the local Maasai community - including going to a cattle market to buy a cow as part of a project to promote sustainable farming - and sleep out in the bush and go hiking across the Maasai Mara.
Lee said: “I’ve visited Kenya a couple of times and found it to be an extraordinary place. Kenya is a place that’s close to our hearts, both as a business and as individuals.
“It’s also been a life-long passion of my business partner, Hamish Stoddart, who has a personal connection with the country as he has family there. Both of us have a real sense of wellbeing from having been involved with this special part of the world, which does need to start doing things differently if it’s to save its beautiful natural habitats from vanishing.
“We planted three fields of trees, which in time will grow into a forest, met some amazing people and had some amazing experiences on the way.
“It was fantastic to hear from the Maasai people the difference they are trying to make in their way of life and why they are working with the conservancy on projects that protect their land and their heritage.”
The company funded the project by using a percentage of the takings from Caesar salads served at its pubs as this is one of the most popular items on the company menu.
The trip was organised through a company’s new charity project, the Peach Foundation, which aims to raise funds for two causes - the communities in which company pubs are based and projects working towards the future sustainability of the world.
The project in Kenya began last year, when the foundation established links with the Enonkishu Conservancy, which is aiming to create a sustainable mix of tourism, forestry and Maasai traditional farming to help preserve its ecosystem. www.peachfoundation.co.uk